#12: Working Three Jobs

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Without any financial support from his family or friends, H.E. Tsem Rinpoche had to work in order to make ends meet. While still in school, Rinpoche worked evenings at McDonald’s, a 25-minute walk from his house, where he was first assigned to cooking duty and later worked as cashier and at the drive-thru. His financial situation was so bad that he would occasionally eat the old unsold food out of sheer hunger.

Rinpoche's Fotomat booth was the most successful in L.A. and he was soon promoted to Fotomat regional manager!

After leaving school, Rinpoche got a day job at Fotomat, working Mondays to Saturdays and continuing at McDonald’s in the evenings four times a week. He also got a third job hanging clothes at a department store three times a week. All jobs were at minimum wage, just US$3.35 per hour. This gruelling schedule of 16-hour days eventually took its toll and he had no choice but to quit his job at McDonald’s despite his worries about not having enough money.

I had to work to pay my bills. I didn’t want to take anything from the centre.

Focusing on his job at Fotomat at the Sunset Boulevard branch, Rinpoche soon became the top regional sales person and was promoted to Fotomat regional manager, responsible for five branches. With his friendly and charismatic attitude, Rinpoche was a favourite with his customers and befriended everyone, including prostitutes, hippies, punks and gays, always talking to them about Dharma. In fact, he became so popular that some women and even men began to stalk him, causing problems with unhappy, jealous husbands.

Rinpoche befriended everyone - customers and colleagues - and always talked to them about the Dharma

Later on, he also worked at Fred Sands Real Estate, at John Douglas realtors in Hancock Park, and at a bank. It was never easy making ends meet in L.A. but Rinpoche persevered and never gave up. Throughout everything, he never lost sight of his goal to go to a monastery and become a monk.

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